Tonawanda News

Local News

June 16, 2013

Voting for recovery

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — And if the potential fines do stay local, residents and organizers will be prepared. 

To come up with a consensus on how to spend the potential funds, the coalition used a participatory budgeting process that originated in Brazil. Rebecca Newberry, of the coalition, said the process is now being used in common council districts in New York City and in Chicago to determine how taxpayer money should be spent. 

As part of that budgeting process, a small group of residents whittled down 191 project ideas that were proposed at a community brainstorming meeting at the end of May. The group of budget delegates and the coalition used an Environmental Protection Agency criterion to determine if the projects were viable. 

“The projects had to be something that reduces environmental impacts, or reduces future pollution that can cause health problems,” Newberry said. “They also have to be located in highly impacted neighborhoods.”

Residents then identified an organization that could sponsor the project, secured its support and obtained a cost estimate for each project. The group then broke the ideas into four categories: green space improvements, energy enhancements, community action and citizen science and health. 

The project ideas include tree farms, an energy audit for local municipalities, the testing of soil and air, as well as allocating resources to those who live in the industrial neighborhood. 

“These are designed so when the money comes in, there will be a fast turn around with organizations that are shovel ready for the projects,” Newberry said. 

Voters who turn up to one of the many polls will receive the ballot, a photo and description of each idea and a letter of support from the organization that would sponsor it. 

“We feel that the projects that are on the ballot are for the betterment of the community as a whole,” budget delegate Jackie Erckert said. “This is our chance to be heard. People need to get out and vote. It is extremely important.” 

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